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Call him the Potentate of Poop, the King of Crap or other titles. The one Bittle picked is The Doody Man.
DON PETERSON | Special to The Roanoke Times
Tyler Bittle removes his work tools from his vehicle. Biddle has 37 clients around Roanoke who pay him monthly to remove dog excrement from their yards.
DON PETERSON | Special to The Roanoke Times
Tyler Bittle services the backyard of a client in Northwest Roanoke.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
It’s no exaggeration to call Tyler Bittle a hustler.
Three to four nights a week, the 2011 Patrick Henry High grad hustles pizzas to hungry Roanokers. Many days, he’s hustling around town for his father’s business, which repairs water-damaged homes.
But it was an enterprise the skinny redhead created by himself that caught my attention.
There are a lot of words to describe it and some of them don’t belong in a family newspaper.
Last fall, the budding entrepreneur joined the pet waste disposal industry. Call him the Potentate of Poop, the King of Crap or other titles. The one Bittle picked is The Doody Man.
Most of his friends, who are now in college, understandably rib him about it. But Bittle, 20, who has postponed higher education to try his hand in business, is laughing all the way to the bank.
He has 37 clients around town who pay him monthly to remove doggy doo from their yards. And he believes he’s just scratched the surface of picking up pet poop for pay.
What drove Bittle in this pursuit? How did he get the idea? How does he market his services? Those were among the questions I had when we talked.
Like a lot of other go-getters, part of his impetus was failure. A local moving company Bittle worked for fired him after he didn’t show up for a couple of successive Saturdays. That was a scheduling snafu, he explained.
As he pondered another job, he thought: Why work for somebody else? Why not create his own job? He started looking around for a business he could start on the cheap.
There was only one pet poop picker-upper in the Roanoke Valley, Bittle realized. So he decided to become a competitor. He ordered business cards and a big magnet sign for his car, designed some advertising fliers, got some T-shirts made, built a website.
The Doody Man was born in October.
Bittle drove around town and posted the fliers in windows of pet-related businesses. His first customer, he said, came from a sign he put at Nature’s Emporium on Brambleton Avenue.
He also visited offices of veterinarians and dog groomers and passed out his cards, promising those businesses a 10 percent cut of the first three months billing for referrals to poop-plagued dog owners.
With his website, www.thedoodymancan.com, he used word-search optimization techniques to attract surfers. That’s where most of his new customers come from these days, Bittle said. The site has been viewed by people in India, Argentina, Israel, the Philippines, Sweden and Australia, he said.
This is actually the third business Bittle has started.
His first was a lawn mowing operation during high school. It was successful and kept him in cash for two mowing seasons, said his mom, Dianne Bittle.
She said Tyler Bittle came to a point where he was faced with making a major investment in lawn mowing and trimming tools. He decided instead to move on.
“I needed a trailer, and a pickup truck to haul it, and some tools to put on it,” Tyler Bittle said.
The next was an operation building, painting and selling custom cornhole boards. That’s a beanbag game college students and adults play at outdoor parties (usually copious amounts of beer are involved). It’s more or less the 21st century version of horseshoes.
Tyler Bittle gave that up after fulfilling 12 or 13 orders at $120 per set. He said he had trouble buying wood that wasn’t warped. It took too much time fashioning the sets of boards from warped wood to make the venture viable.
When he told his mom his idea for the latest venture, she wasn’t exactly thrilled.
“I said, ‘Really, honey? You want to pick up dog poop?’ ” Dianne Bittle told me. “But he had done his research.”
Customers of The Doody Man pay by the month. The price for the service depends on how many dogs they have, how many times per month they want the poop picked up, and additional services such as deck or patio spraying and scrubbing.
He’ll pick up one dog’s poop once per month for $13. Typically Tyler Bittle double bags the waste and puts it in a customer’s trash, but he’ll take it with him for an additional $3.
What’s his long range plan for the business?
Right now, he’s looking to hire someone to do his dirty work for him — and maybe some marketing, too.
“I want to see how far I can take it,” he said. “I’ll probably get it up to 100 clients and sell it, then start a new business.”
What about college? I asked.
“I’d love to go to college for some kind of technical education, like to become a mechanical engineer,” Tyler Bittle told me. “But a good technical school is out of my price range right now.”
As scrappy as he seems, I doubt he’ll have to worry about that for too long.
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